Course Syllabus

Guilty or Not Guilty? Psychology in the Courtroom

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2023, Session 2 - DIS Stockholm


3 credits

Study tour


Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Criminal law , Criminal justice, Sociology


One psychology course at university level

Faculty Members:

Meiling Liu, Ph.D (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani

Academic Support: 

Time & Place:

Days: June  Monday- Friday

Time: June 13-30


Room: D-410

Course Description

Why do individual jurors draw different conclusions about the verdict on the basis of the same evidence?  Can judges and jurors detect if defendants or victims lie about what occurred with an intention to withhold the truth at a trial? Should courts treat children as competent witnesses when no forensic evidence presents in child sexual abuse cases? What may lead to wrongful convictions and how should confession evidence in a criminal court be used?

The lack of science-based knowledge in psychology in legal practices may result in disastrous consequences and injustice. Professionals working in the legal arena deal with crime cases ought to be equipped with psychology competency.

This course is designed for students who are studying law, social work, psychology. It aims to provide students with an opportunity to probe how psychological research can be applied to better inform legal practices in our society. Considering the interface between psychology, law and the courts, this course explores the psychology in the courtroom. Topics include pre-trial publicity and the impact of biases on decision making process, belief of lying behavior held by judges and jurors, deception detection in courtroom, evaluations of memory-based testimonies, the use of confession evidence in courts. Moreover, the Nordic courts and court culture will be discussed in the course. Some recent psychological research conducted in the field will be explored.

Learning Objectives

  • Introduce specific psychological concepts, theories, and research that interface with judicial process.
  • Critically evaluate the benefit of psychological knowledge and analyses, understand and apply this knowledge in order to suggest solutions to judicial system.
  • Develop critical analysis skills towards understanding of the courtroom procedures.
  • Develop academic writing skills and capability of communicating academic material to the public.


Meiling Liu

Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology (China University of Political Science and Law, 2010). Post Doctorate in Forensic Psychology (Gothenburg University, 2012). She has worked as an organizational consultant in areas of leadership and cross-cultural competence training in Sweden. Previously, Liu worked as a teacher and researcher at universities in China, and was promoted to the position of associate professor in China. She has been with DIS since 2016.


1. Required Textbook (E-books available):

Otgarr, H., & Howe, M. L.(2018). Finding the truth in the courtroom: Dealing with deception, lies, and memories. Oxford, England: Oxford university press. 

2. Required Articles and Other Media on Canvas:

Curley, L. J., Munro, J., & Dror, I. E. (2022). Cognitive and human factors in legal layperson decision making: Sources of bias in juror decision making. Medicine, Science and the Law, 62(3), 206-215.

Gudjonsson, G.H. (2021). The Science-Based Pathways to Understanding False Confessions and Wrongful Convictions. Front. Psychol. 12:633936. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.633936

Hans, V. P., & Helm, R. K. (2019). Procedural Roles: Professional Judges, Lay judges, and Lay Jurors. In D. K. Brown, J. I. Turner., & B. Weisser (Eds). The Oxford Hanbook of Criminal Process, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190659837.013.12

Rassin, E. (2020). Context effect and confirmation bias in criminal fact finding. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 25, 80-89.

Shari R. Berkowitz, Brandon L. Garrett, Kimberly M. Fenn & Elizabeth F. Loftus (2020): Convicting with confidence? Why we should not over-rely on eyewitness confidence, Memory, DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2020.1849308

Skinner, G. C. M. (2021). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: A review of factors that impact proceedings in the courtroom. In D. Canter., & D. Youngs (Eds), Reviewing Crime Psychology (pp.380-393), Routledge.

VanMeter, F., Henderson, H., Konovalov, H., Karni-Visel, Y., & Blasbalg, U. (2021). Children’s narrative coherence in ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ forensic interviews and courtroom testimony. Psychology, Crime & Law.

Vrij, A., Hartwig, M. (2021). Deception and Lie Detection in the Courtroom: The Effect of Defendants Wearing Medical Face Masks. Journal of applied research in memory and cognition,10, 392-399.

Wheatcroft, J.M. (2018). Judicial processes. In G. Davies., & A. Beech (Eds). Forensic Psychology: Crime, justice, law, Intervention (pp.367-398). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

3. Optional readings 

Kassin, S. M. (2017). False Confessions: How Can Psychology So Basic Be So Counterintuitive? American Psychologist, 72(9): 951-964. Lackey, J. (2020).

Nylund A, Sunde J.Ø.(2019). Courts and court proceedings. In: Letto-Vanamo P et al (eds) Nordic law in European context. Springer, Cham, pp 201–213.

Snook, B., Barron, T., Fallon, L., Kassin, S. M., Kleinman, S., Leo, R. A., Meissner, C. A., Morello, L., Nirider, L. H., Redlich, A. D., & Trainum, J. L. (2020). Urgent issues and prospects in reforming interrogation practices in the United States and Canada. Legal and Criminological Psychology,26, 1-24. doi:10.1111/lcrp.12178

Sörman, K., Cox, J., Rimsten, C.E., Stanziani, M., Lernestedt, C., Kristiansson, M., & Howner, K. (2020). Perceptions of Mental Health Conditions in Criminal Cases: A Survey Study Involving Swedish Lay Judges. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 47 (6), 688-711. DOI: 10.1177/0093854820910774

Trosh, L. M., Sigvardsson,B. T., Sveinsdottir, T., Gylfason, H. F.,  & Sigurdsson, J. F. (2022). Children’s testimonies: What influences prosecutions and convictions in sexual abuse cases?.  Nordic Psychology, 74:2, 88-101, DOI:

Wettergren, Å., & Blix, S.B. (2016). Empathy and objectivity in the legal procedure: the case of Swedish prosecutors. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 17(1), 19-35, DOI: 10.1080/14043858.2015.1136501.

Wixted, J. T., Mickes, L., & Fisher, R. P. (2018). Rethinking the Reliability of Eyewitness Memory. Perspectives on Psychological Science,13(3), 324–335.

Field Studies (to be confirmed)

1. Visiting Stockholm district court

2. Visiting Association supporting relatives of sexually abused children (ATSUB)

Topic: “ Testimonies in child sexual abuse cases ”    

Objectives:  Further explore children and youth who suffer from sexual and other forms of abuse and how ATSUB supports their family members in social and legal proceedings in Sweden.  

Description: There will be a presentation by communication officer at ATSUB about cases that children and youth who are subject to sexual abuse, and how ATSUB strengthen family roles in supporting the victims and assist in courts.

Study tour: Iceland

Description:  A week-long study tour in Iceland will provide you with an opportunity to explore the Nordic judicial system and criminal justice through academic visits. You will gain a profound understanding of how science-based psychological knowledge contributes to (or in some cases, fails to contribute to) legal practice. The tour will also allow you to explore and gain insight into the culture of Iceland through attending performances, visiting museums, and participating in social activities.

Timing: June 18th- 22th

Academic visits: 

  • Visit Islandic Public Prosecutions 
  • Visit the Islandic Prison and Probation Administration
  • Visit Reykjavik University 

Approach to Teaching

I strive to create an interactive learning environment, in which you are expected to play an active and participatory role and being involved in discussion, asking questions and by completing tasks/assignments. You will be the center of the learning process, which means that you are not expected be a passive recipient of knowledge, but an explorer of theories and research findings. The goal is for you to develop your knowledge of interactions between psychology and law  in its’ applied and research questions and problems.

My role as teacher is to help you strengthen the collective experience of the classroom in a shared learning experience.  The goal is to stimulate you to think, to help you explore and be productive, and to familiarize you with cutting-edge research. A variety of teaching methods will be used, including lectures, case studies, class discussions, group presentations, interactive classroom activities and multi-media to facilitate the understanding of theory, research and their cultural implications.

Collaboration is highly valued in this course, and you are expected to work both individually and in groups. Respect for other’s opinions and experience is a necessary requirement for this class.

Expectations of the Students

The success of this course is hinged on not only my ability to communicate ideas and concepts, but our ability to create an environment conducive to learning. You are expected to treat each other with respect, and be tolerant to different opinions. Any kind of biases and prejudices are not acceptable in the class.

In class we will use a case-lecture-discussion format and failure to adequately prepare for class will prevent effective participation. I expect you to have done the reading for each class and to come with notes and questions for me and for the other students. This will give us material to generate conversation.

Please note the following rules:

  1. A 3-week intensive course is fast paced. Heavy workloads are expected. 
  2. Hand in assignments on time.
  3. Complete all readings prior to class.
  4. This course will rely heavily on the Canvas system, and you will be responsible for checking updated information on Canvas.
  5. Be punctual and attend all classes; missing classes without a legitimate excuse will result in a lower final grade.
  6. Cell Phones, Laptop, and Related technology: Please bring a notebook and pen to class for taking notes, and only use laptops when instructed for specific activities. Please switch your cell phone off and resist the urge to text.


A number of diverse tasks will be given throughout the semester to address learning objectives. Emphasis will be on engaged participation, and may include individual and/or group based written/oral tasks. Projects may be given that will explore topics experientially.

To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.


Methods of Evaluation

How is it evaluated?

(Individual or group)

Due Date


Engaged Participation

As indicated by class attendance and study tours, speaking up/asking questions/giving feedback in class, one in-class presentation of class reading
 Individual  Ongoing


Evaluation of Confession Evidence 


 17th June


Final Video Project Group  28th June 30%

Project Presentation 

 Group  30th June 20%



Engaged Participation (20%):

Participation in class requires arriving on time and being prepared in relation to readings and other assignments and one class-reading individual presentation. Your participation grade reflects the importance of being active in this course, which relies in great part on the reflections, discussions, and exercises in class. Active participation is essential in both the classroom, on field studies, on study tours, and in group work. Attendance is mandatory. 

Project Presentation (20%)

You are expected to complete a 20-minute group presentation with your group members based on study tour. You will be required to survey a topic on perception of fairness in justice system, summarize your methods and key findings from your survey, evaluate problems and suggest improvement by relating to psychological research that you have learned in the class. The topic list and further detailed guideline will be provided in class.

Evaluation of Confession Evidence (30%)

This assignment aims to increase awareness of examining the authenticity of a confession evidence at a trial. You will explain the situational and dispositional risk factors associated with false confessions, contrast the impact of confession evidence on US jurors and Nordic lay judges’ decision-making process. In addition, evidence-based suggestions should be provided to legal professionals. It is crucial to use psychological research to support your opinions. A 5-6 page paper on this topic will be required to submit on canvas. Detailed instruction of writing will be handed out in class.

Final Video Project (30%)

This assignment aims to deepen your knowledge in the field of Eyewitness testimony and/or Deception Detection pertaining to trial court, and to communicate empirical and academic material in psychology to audience.

This is a group project, consisting of you and two fellow students who will collaborate on the creation of a 10-minute video production. You will choose one of the topics and apply one case from the real world in relation to it or a trial from TV shows or movies, apply research to prove that it was, in fact, a wrongdoing and communicate accurate knowledge to your audience.

The video should consist of the following sections. Section one: 2minutes, a trial addressing inaccurate use of psychology knowledge in the courtroom, such as how witnesses can be misled, altering their recollections of events. Section two: 5-7 minutes, analyses of the misuse supported by conclusions based on cited sources or research findings. Section three: 2-3 minutes, a summary of takeaways from your video. The video should consist of a list of 4 peer-reviewed articles you cited, and at least two of them should be published after 2018.

Detailed assignment descriptions and/or rubrics will be made available on Assignments on Canvas and/or in class. 


Policy on late papers

There will be a grade deduction for late submission. See rubrics.

Use of laptops or phones in class

Laptops/Tablets/iPads are not allowed to be open in the classroom unless agreed upon for specified tasks such as article reading and/or for discussion purposes and/or note-taking. Cellular phones must be switched off during class.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due